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Wisconsin men’s basketball: three things from the loss to Rutgers

A look back at some key aspects from the home loss to Rutgers.

Rutgers v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team dropped their fourth game in Big Ten play on Saturday afternoon against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Let’s look back at some of the main storylines from the game.

Three things that stood out...

No. 1: Free throws

Averaging nearly 75% from the free-throw line for the season, the Badgers shot under 65% in the two contests leading into Saturday’s matchup with Rutgers. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, their free-throw struggles would continue as the team was only 7-of-15 from the charity stripe in the first half, and 52.9% for the game on Saturday. In a close game with 21 fouls called in the first half, the Badgers were unable to take advantage of extra opportunities at the line which proved costly.

The Badgers would go on and hit their two second-half free throws, but Rutgers would ultimately go on to make their free-throw chances (they shot 88.9%) and outscore Wisconsin by eight on the line with only one extra attempt.

There were multiple aspects of the game that were the difference on Saturday, but the inability for the Badgers to convert from the free-throw line played a key role.

No. 2: Jumpers

Both teams shot the ball well throughout the game.

In the first half, the two teams were at or above 50% shooting from the floor while Rutgers was better from long range (5-of-9 compared to 2-of-6 for the Badgers). The aspect of shooting that consistently stood out in the first half was the ability for Geo Baker, Ron Harper Jr., and the Scarlet Knights to hit contested jump shots. Even when Wisconsin would push them deep into the shot clock, Rutgers was able to convert on tough shots with a hand in their face.

The ability of Baker and Harper, as well as Paul Mulcahy in the second half, to hit tough buckets was a big reason they were able to come into the Kohl Center exit victorious for the first time ever. The trio mentioned above combined for 55 points, and 7-of-11 from behind the three-point line.

The continued struggles from deep for Brad Davison was also a major storyline that coincided with the strong shooting by Rutgers. Davison finished the game with nine points on 1-of-9 shooting from three-point range, his fourth consecutive game shooting under 30% from deep. The second-leading scorer for the Badgers could not get going, and Wisconsin finished the game shooting only 21% from three overall.

Davison has been an important part of the team’s success this season, but this was a performance he will likely want to forget.

No. 3: Mistakes

Wisconsin made some uncharacteristic mistakes on Saturday, especially late in the game, and unfortunately for the Badgers, Rutgers was able to take full advantage of those mistakes all game long.

Early in the game Wisconsin came out a little flat and struggled with some of their defensive rotations as well. As a result, Rutgers was able to carve out an early lead that Wisconsin was trying to dig out of seemingly all afternoon.

Rutgers was also nearly flawless on converting offensive rebounds into second-chance points (four rebounds led to 10 points), and Wisconsin had double-digit turnovers for the first time since at Nebraska. While 11 turnovers on the surface are not overly concerning, eight of those giveaways happened in the second half, with the majority happening late when it mattered most.

The Scarlet Knights deserve a ton of credit for executing their game plan and playing at a high level, but Wisconsin had far too many small mishaps that helped fuel Rutgers as well. Wisconsin did not score for over four minutes late in the game immediately after securing a lead with 4:39 remaining.

Execution down the stretch was not there, and the end result was a loss to a team playing with a ton of confidence.

Up next: The Badgers will be back in action on Tuesday for a road tilt against Indiana. Tip time is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT and the game will be aired on ESPN2.